His works are off to India next, for a solo exhibition

In 1977, Singaporean artist Lim Tze Peng was awarded the Special Prize from the Commonwealth Art Exhibition for his piece "Untitled Bali" in England. But what the world didn’t know was that this artwork—one which gave him global exposure—was the same piece that was rejected by curators of another exhibition in London.

“I was told that the piece was neither of Eastern nor Western style,” recalls Lim, speaking in Mandarin. This story exemplifies the 99-year-old artist’s belief that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

At such an elderly age, Lim remains alert and strong, and speaks fluently. He can’t stop thinking about art, painting regularly in his studio located on the second level of his house at Telok Kurau. His desire to create is strong; even as he chats with his family and guests, he’s impatient (but never brash), to get back to painting. It’s even reflected in his simple ensemble of white t-shirt and paint-stained pants: all he wants to do is paint.

Untitled Bali

Lim’s expert use of Chinese calligraphy techniques is easily identifiable, as he adores combining Eastern art techniques with a Western colour palette. Drawing plenty of inspiration from our local culture and scenery, the artist strongly believes in creating art to educate the future generations of Singapore. It's one of the main reasons why he continues to paint.

Patriotism and paying tribute to the local arts scene is of vast significance to him. In fact, he longs for the construction of a new, massive art museum, with a revolving door of exhibitions to display local artworks for Singaporeans to behold. He’s also holding out hope for a large, national art competition that will allow his fellow Singaporean artists to gain recognition and build portfolio.

He finds grave importance in sharing Singaporean artworks with the world too; which coincided with an offer his representative art gallery Ode to Art received, to showcase his art in Mumbai, India. Named The Spirit of Ink, the solo exhibition will be a ticketed event, held from Aug 3-Sep 15 at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, and will see many of the artist’s earlier works which feature iconic Singapore locations like the Singapore River and Chinatown; as well as 10 new pieces of abstract art calligraphy, which he focuses on more these days.

“I write better than I paint,” the humble artist states, before showing exactly what he means. 

He first covers the canvas with large strokes, before adding an explosion of colours with finesse, turning calligraphy into art. And while he used to paint what he saw, he now relies on his imagination and experiences to create.

He has contributed much to the local arts scene, and till today, donates his pieces to exhibitions and galleries.

It's hard to believe that this is a man who is almost a centenarian. It’s little wonder why the seasoned artist is highly-respected by his peers, friends and family. His works inspire, while his presence and passion for the arts leave all in awe.